Pediatricians Group Calls for Tougher Regulation of Chemicals

The federal government fails to protect the public, especially pregnant women and children, from the harms of toxic chemicals.

That, at least, is the position of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has issued a call for an overhaul of the way federal authorities regulate chemicals.

The new policy statement takes aim at the federal Toxic Substance Controls Act, the 1976 law that, academy officials say, has been used to regulate just five chemicals, or chemical classes, out of 80,000 that businesses use.

“The current policy … really is virtually useless,” said Dr. Jerome Paulson, the statement’s author and medical director of the Child Health Advocacy Institute at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

According to HeathDay News, Paulson said the rising concerns about Bisphenol A, a chemical used for decades in plastic drinking bottles that may trigger neurological and other problems in children, exemplifies the government’s regulatory failures.

“In the last couple of years we’ve had a ‘toxicant of the month’ situation,” he said. “Why aren’t these chemicals tested before they’re in the market so we … can know if they’re unlikely to do harm to the environment or to human beings?”

As USA Today reports, some critics characterize the government’s reactive approach to dealing with potentially hazardous chemicals as “innocent until proven guilty.” Under current law, businesses are required to notify the EPA about new chemicals, but they are under no obligation to conduct safety testing.

The policy statement, published in the May edition of the AAP journal Pediatrics, seeks to turn that philosophy around. “Manufacturers must be responsible for developing information about chemicals before marketing,” the statement said. “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must have the authority to demand additional safety data about a chemical and to limit or stop the marketing of a chemical when there is a high degree of suspicion that the chemical might be harmful to children, pregnant women, or other populations.”

The issue of chemical safety is especially important for children, because their still-developing brains and nervous systems are more susceptible to toxicity.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., has introduced bills to strengthen the regulation of chemicals four times, most recently this month, but so far without success.

With its statement, the AAP joins other medical associations, including the American Medical Association and the American Public Health Association, calling for more rigorous protections against chemicals. Recent studies, including one linking prenatal pesticide exposure to lower IQs in children years later, have called attention to the particular threat to youngsters.

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One comment to “Pediatricians Group Calls for Tougher Regulation of Chemicals”

  1. marsh

    A more accurate, complete labeling system of all chemicals will go a long way.
    I even sing about it. See
    The HAZCOM Song http://bit.ly/e88T9g

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